The males we choose to breed to our lovely Shiba girls are usually not the same dogs as the breeders around us use or the newest champion in town. There usually end up an abundance of offspring from new champions in what is called "popular male syndrome." Luckily in the PNW we have some great breeders and above average quality in our dogs but I am usually looking for something completely different then show wins and pretty faces when I choose a sire for a litter.
First of all a breeder has to know their female dogs well. Know their natural tendencies in behavior that is called their temperament. Are they over reactive to stimuli? Are they more active then you'd like in a house dog? Are they a bit shy or timid in new surroundings? Those are things you can modify with exposure and training so you have to know what they would do naturally in those situations because that is what their pups will tend to be like also and pet owners don't have the skills to deal with an already difficult breed that has a lot of hurdles to overcome to create a great pet. Then you look at the physical qualities you may want to change. Is the topline soft, or is the tail too tight, do you want more pigment in the coat? More slant to the eye or ear pitch. And of course their is personality traits are also passed. Are they sweet natured and kind, do they play with other dogs or go all Cujo, do they enjoy training? Then I know the kind of males I am looking for to enhance the temperament and personality of the females.
Something I've learned over the years is most breeders don't learn enough about their dog's trainability and tractability if they don't teach their dogs strict manners and basic to advanced obedience so always keep that in mind when interviewing breeders. Good breeders show their dogs in conformation but only minimal training is required to be successful. GREAT breeders ALSO train their dogs in performance events like FORMAL obedience, agility & tracking. Less training is required for rally, scent work, barn hunt, lure coursing, tricks and all the other kooky events AKC has come up with in an attempt to create attainable titles for the average owner and to stimulate income in what can only be called the dying sport of dog shows. STILL with a Shiba ANY performance sport is a MAJOR deal because their nature is so independent. It's not in their DNA to play as a team like it is for other AKC breeds.
In the male, of course I want a beautiful dog with great features but I'm always wanting to improve upon on the female I am considering breeding him to. I tend to go with an older male 5-7 years old who is MELLOW, easy going, non dog aggressive and a great companion and house dog. Then I look at his overall health and the puppies he has produced in the past.
My main goal is great temperament and personality, health and beauty. If a Shiba doesn't have a fantastic personality and good heart and isn't adored by his owner they won't pay a giant vet bill in an emergency. If an owner pays a $40,000 vet bill to save their Shiba they really love that Shiba! Realistically I know I can't pay that kind of a vet bill nor do I expect any of my young pet owners to pay that kind of bill but when an owner does decide to go in major debt for a pet you stand up and take notice. You know who you are............Ichi. As a breeder I know I did something right and produced a great family dog when the family loves them that much. Sigh of awwwwww.
So a breeder has to focus on a lot more than just putting two pretty dogs together. There is an old saying that many of you have probably have never heard before, "pretty is and pretty does." I actually said that once and was asked what that meant. In such a superficial world everyone should know that saying. A pretty dog, human, horse, cat, whatever is only as beautiful as his or her actions. Example: a pretty dog that bites everyone is only a pretty big asshole and has no redeeming qualities worth reproducing.
While no being is perfect, when breeding dogs you want the scale to tip to freaking awesome!
Then there is health to consider. I'm going to write another post on it in detail but genetic and physical testing is very important. We rarely have hip dysplasia in Shibas yet we always test for it. Why? Because if we stop it will creep back into the genepool when we aren't looking. The Shiba is overall a very healthy breed compared to a dog like a Golden Retriever who probably has about ever health problem you could possibly think of and a ton more to be yet discovered. It is probably the most popular dog in the entire world and for good reason. The funny thing is the Shiba and the Golden are about as far apart as you can get if you start comparing temperament and behavioral traits. Very rarely do I have a person who owns a Golden inquire about a Shiba. I can think of 2 times and one was actually a Goldendoodle............yikes, don't get me started.
Behavioral traits and personality are import to me. Not many breeders are professional dog trainers who study dog behavior. Most people and most breeders just lump temperament & personality together and I don't. While both temperament and personality have genetic markers to pass them on personality is a little trickier. Maybe a better example is this, a good temperament is a good temperament in any breed. Stable minded, proper energy level for the breeds purpose, no extreme reactions to stimuli. But a good personality in a Golden is totally different then a good personality in a Shiba. So if you were doing an AKC temperament test for Shibas and Goldens you would get different reactions to some of the portions of the test because of breed differences.
All my dogs have excellent temperaments for Shibas but each one has a different personality. Some are super attentive, always near you, willing to please, wanting to do tricks for treats and others don't give a rip what you are doing or what you might ask of them they just go through life happily chasing butterflies and killing bunnies. Both are totally great Shibas. More on the difference between male and female pets in another article.
Below is Haku with Darla looking on (horse right above Darla's tail). These dogs are soooo different, both great Shibas. Darla is my mock border collie and is honest as the day is long. She waits for instructions while Haku doesn't give a second though about darting out an open door in impetuous Shiba fashion. Haku is more the norm but my goal will always be for another Darla because it is my personal preference in a pet. Darla is a tad more active in the house then I typically like but she can control her impulses pretty well. Haku is a great house dog and if I am still he will mimic me and lay down to wait until I move again. I have to TELL Darla to lay down but luckily she listens. So they both have great temperament and different personalities, both great dogs. A Darla type dog is usually easier for a pet owner to "train" and Haku dog is the kind of dog best managed with baby gates.
I love the tail on Darla, Haku's is OK but less curled tails balance out the front and the back of the dog better but Haku has soooo many other good traits I use him to enhance a female lacking in those traits. Goals, goals, goals. And I'll leave you with that.